Crest Canal Guides
187 Miles with 136 Locks, a 2 Week Cruise at 7hrs a Day.
Leaving Chirk Marina and heading South, you enter Chirk cuttings which leads directly into the Chirk Tunnel (440 yards), then immediately onto Chirk Aqueduct which crosses the River Ceirog which forms the Wales and England Border. After passing some quite narrow sections, the canal opens up and you enter St Martins moor before reaching New Marton Locks, (2 locks about 1/4 mile apart).
The canal then passes through open cuttings until it reaches Frankton Junction where the Montgomery Canal joins from the right. (People wanting to experience the tranquility of the Montgomery would exit here having previously contacted with CRT (Canal & River Trust) to arrange passage through the Frankton Locks).
Continuing along the Llangollen it passes through an agricultural area before reaching the market town of Ellesmere where there are ample moorings and a Tesco store adjacent to the canal. The town has much to offer in the way of shops and refreshment houses. At the junction of the town arm stands the maintenance yard and buildings of the CRT.
Carrying on the Llangollen Canal brings more pleasant countryside before reaching Ellesmere Tunnel (100 yds), followed by the lovely Shropshire Lake District where there are pleasant moorings. After a short period you reach Whixall Mosses Nature Reserve. The canal bends left at Prees Junction where the original route was intended to make towards Shrewsbury. This never developed and the arm now leads only to Whixall Marina.
More pleasant countryside follows in rural settings until reaching Whitchurch, where the arm originally went into the town itself, filled in, in the late 1940’s this is only now a 200 yard stretch.
Leaving Whitchurch the canal soon reaches Grindley Brook. Here the staircase locks are usually controlled by lock keepers. At busy times quite lengthy delays can be encountered here. The staircase leads to three more locks in close proximity. More rural areas and more locks spaced further apart follow. The next village is Marbury situated about 1/2 mile from Marbury Lock and is a very pleasant setting. The canal continues to Wrenbury where a lift bridge over a busy road has to be opened using a BWB/CRT key. Wrenbury Village is about 1/4 mile from the canal passing 2 pubs.
More countryside follows passing through Baddeley locks (3) and Swanley locks (2). Burland village comes next, soon afterwards you reach the final four locks which drop down to Hurleston Junction and the main line.
Take a right here towards Chester, then shortly after bear right under the bridge at Barbridge Junction to join the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. This is a very pretty but rural canal with only one pub about 1/2 mile from bridge 14. There are very pleasant and quiet moorings at many points on this canal which takes about 4 hours to navigate and 4 deep locks to operate.
Nearing Wardle lock the canal drops onto the Trent and Mersey Canal at a busy junction with poor visibility of approaching vessels. having reached this point turn right to travel south on the main line and for a while pass through an industrial area mainly involved in the salt and ceramics industries. The canalsie then becomes more rural before beginning to climb through numerous locks known as ‘heartbreak hill’ where many of the locks are duplicated.
Having worked 25 locks you reach the summit level and pass under a viaduct which carries the Macclesfield canal and very soon reach Hardings Wood Junction which is the point where the latter canal leaves the Trent and Mersey. In this area the colour of the canal water changes due to ground deposits.
Next comes the almost 3000 yd Harecastle Tunnel where tunnel keepers regulate traffic. It takes about 40 minutes to pass through the tunnel before you emerge into the fringes of Stoke on Trent. Passing Festival Park Marina the canal begins to drop down after it reaches Etruria Junction where the Caldon Canal joins. Now begins the descent with 5 more locks before reaching a plain leading into Stone where there are more locks in quick order.
Once these have been navigated the canal becomes more rural until it reaches Great Haywood Junction where your tour turns right onto the Staffs and Worcester Canal which is pleasant and relaxing after the efforts on the Trent and Mersey. Shugborough Hall stands near the junction, shortly after leaving here the canal finds Tixall Wide, a wide expanse of water noted for wildlife. Penkridge arrives which is situated in the middle of a set of seven locks.
Leaving Penkridge, the landscape becomes rural with many turns until it nears the outskirts of Wolverhampton. Autherley junction is where you turn right onto the Shropshire Union Canal. The suburbs of Wolverhampton are soon left behind and again the view becomes pleasant and scenic, soon it reaches the village of Brewood which has a variety of shops and pubs.
Leaving Brewood you meet Wheaton Aston Lock after about an hour and is the last lock for quite some time. Gnosall Village is worth a stop for its shops and pubs. Norbury Junction follows with Woodseaves Cuttings close behind, here the canal is narrow, deep and appears muddy. The five locks at Tyrley are soon reached, with Market Drayton approaching with the town centre a mile walk from the canal.
Market Drayon disappears as Audlem approaches with the Audlem flight, about an hour after these locks is the market town of Nantwich which is 1/2 mile walk from the canal. Shortly after you reach Hurleston Junction again, turning left to join the Llangollen Canal to return.